Art and essay by Gretchen Leggitt
When an avalanche robbed life from my dear friend last March, I was left with a tree. Not just any tree. I was left with the white pine.
Ian Fair was a naturalist. He thrived in the natural world. He was an outdoor educator who lived to observe, teach, learn about, and play within, the forests of the Northwest. When his fiancé called me to inform me of his loss, her loss, our loss, I gasped for air as I tried to figure out what I could do to fill the void. Naturally, I turned to art as a means of meditating on my friend's memory while attempting to create an artifact that would honor him and his legacy. His favorite tree was the white pine. He loved the cones, the growth, the shapes and smells. As I scrutinized and drew each branch of this tree, Ian’s beaming smile and curious blue eyes accompanied me and shined through in each stroke. The pine in my drawing stands bold and strong among the warm, yet gentle, flurry of energy that was him as much as it was the snow he loved to play in. His initials, IF, are the grounding anchors that root his strong and noble tree.
When I brought a series of these prints to his celebration of life two weeks after his passing, I had no idea how significant this white pine would be for his loved ones. More than a photograph of past or a compilation of carefully chosen words, it became a fortified symbol that exemplified Ian. It became his badge that all of us would carry close to our hearts. Ian’s love for nature, paired with his love for life, became immortalized in this icon: a sole white pine that was chiseled out in his memory. This white pine is now tattooed on his best friend. It's on greeting cards sent around the world. It hangs on the walls of his communities across the country. It's the tree tying us all together. The tree that will forever remind us of this radiant human.